Paris, London, Madrid. Dubai, Tokyo, Sydney. Chicago, New York, LA.
Who doesn’t love traveling? The short answer is anyone traveling with children. Rarely is it a vacation as much as it’s ‘taking your parenting show on the road’– all of the hassles of home, with none of the convenience. Now, we are not above bringing a babysitter or grandparent with us on vacation, but when traveling abroad or anywhere involving planes or trains, we always implement our go-to travel strategy which we lovingly call ‘Incredibly Low Expectations’. With this method we focus on two things: 1) Safety and 2) Absolute Enjoyment of our trip, children & spouses. Though this is not the least expensive way to travel, the emotional return on investment is huge: happy parents, happy kids and reduced stress memory making.
(All links are active so please click on the light grey links!)
Safety: An Obvious Priority Number One.
Safety wise, we are on high alert for any and all danger, we remain cognizant of our surroundings & local customs and demand our kids stay nearly attached to our bodies. We hold hands at all times, nobody runs ahead and we hover like vultures at every playground, park and train station. We read state department warnings & map out hospitals. We check local laws regarding medications because nobody wants to spend 18+ months in a foreign prison on a trumped-up drug charge, and if allowed, we bring a satchel of kids medicines from home: Benadryl, Motrin, Tylenol, Spiderman and Barbie Bandages. A super important tip: stay in hotels with great security. We love to stay in a really nice hotel because a little extra luxury and amazing service make everyone a little bit
less irritable more comfortable. And we need really good Room Service available 24/7. We also have the concierge hire chauffeured cars & drivers for us. Just spend the money and avoid hating your life.
We bring our usual car seat onto the plane, which is definitely a pain in the ass, but gives us peace of mind.
We bring our best full size stroller because it is a cozy place for our little ones to pass out while we are sightseeing or eating. Move over lightweight, easy to carry umbrella stroller, this is a job for the heavy ‘full utility’ stroller.
Living in the city, our kiddos are pros when it comes to naps on the go so this is an easy day. (SIDE NOTE: We remove the wheels from the stroller before checking it at the airport because baggage check is the Kryptonite to stroller wheels.) In addition, we bring any baby wearing/kid carrying apparatus we have because kid wearing is easier than kid carrying. We learned this tip the hard way! (For example, when there was an employment strike with the airlines & we were not allowed to gate check our stroller. And our direct flight became 2 stops and an 8 hour layover. WTF.)
A close 2nd to Safety is the desire to remain in a ‘Happy Place’ for the duration of our trip. Again, This is not the time to be our best, most ‘got our shit together’ parents.
The keys to keeping our sanity when traveling with kids include:
- For long flights, we let our kids wear whatever comfortable leisure wear they want & comfy shoes. It’s ok if they have a closet full of beautiful threads, we just don’t want to have complaints about seams, buttons or blisters.
- Every kid gets their own backpack filled to the brim with their necessities: sweatshirt, hat, small blanket, favorite stuffed animal, electronics, headphones, snacks and their favorite sippy cup or water bottle. Sunscreen, bug spray & hand sanitizer are always thrown in there along with fresh pants & diapers because there will be turbulence & the ‘seatbelt’ sign will definitely be on when your recently potty trained kiddo has to pee. We always bring markers and a fresh coloring book, however, we never delude ourselves into thinking that our little darlings will want to do flashcards or work on their homework so we skip packing them. It is asking a lot for kids to sit still, buckled into a cramped space for hours while flying so we do what we can to make it as entertaining as possible.
- We charge every electronic device we own and bring it on the plane. One per kid AT LEAST because kids on vacation don’t share. Now is not the time to show off what great ‘citizens’ we are raising. Get a second mortgage, donate blood, buy a device for each kid. It’s super helpful if they are all the exact same make & model in order to avoid any ‘discussions’ about which one is ‘better’. You know the screen time limits we normally adhere to? F**k those. Everyone traveling wants peace and quiet and has already given us side eyes at the Gate. We’ve seen the looks on their faces when they near our seats, followed by a quick sigh of relief when they realize they’re not sitting by the kids. Which leads to an important rule: ALWAYS bring headphones (1 pair per kid minimum) because listening to the sound of kid shows, movies and games on the plane is like some kind of psychological torture. And news flash: RARELY is anybody under 12 years old sleeping on the plane, so we never hold out hope that we will be landing with chipper kiddos.
- The Mini Oreo’s, Vitamin Water, Annie’s Organic Fruit Snack’s & juice boxes that we pack can get the job done when it comes to pacifying cranky kids. Normally, we pride ourselves on feeding a well-balanced, Organic diet to our families. But everything in moderation right? Our kids are pretty good travelers and have been flying since birth. However, being out of their normal routine may cause random acts of shitty behavior. In these moments we will do just about anything to bribe them into decency, which includes doling out an insane amount of ‘treats’. When we get to our destination we make a quick grocery store run and grab some healthy necessities if they’re available and try to balance the protein to sugar ratio, but admittedly we have allowed our kids to subsist on a questionable amount of cheese and Nutella crepes while on excursions to Paris. This isn’t the time for rigidity.
- And while it sounds crazy, this may be the BIGGEST secret to success: We DO NOT adjust our kids to any time change unless absolutely necessary. We avoid getting jet lagged kids onto local time at all costs. It is much easier to enjoy ourselves if the entire crew can stay on their usual sleep schedule. Not to mention, we don’t like to RE-readjust the sleep pattern when we return home from vacation. Remembering how long the sleep training took when our kids were babies, we are super reluctant to mess with their sleep schedules for vacation. We don’t care if everyone sleeps in and stays up late or vice versa.
Let’s be honest, we are not winning any awards from ‘Parents’ magazine with these techniques, but damn it if we aren’t going to have an awesome time. By relaxing the schedule, doing the best we can with meals, bringing the absolute necessities and a few creature comforts from home, we all have the chance to enjoy a leisurely pace, soak up a new locale and spend meaningful family time together. There is nothing better.